A 12-month abattoir survey was conducted between January 1999 and January 2000, to determine the prevalence of faecal carriage of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli 0157 (VTEC 0157) in cattle and sheep slaughtered for human consumption in Great Britain. Samples of rectum containing faeces were collected from 3939 cattle and 4171 sheep at 118 abattoirs, in numbers proportional to the throughput of the premises. The annual prevalence of faecal carriage of VTEC 0157 was 4.7 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval 4.1 to 5.4) for cattle and 1.7 per cent (1.3 to 2.1) for sheep, values which were statistically significantly different from each other (P<0.001). The organisms were recovered from both cattle and sheep slaughtered throughout the year and at abattoirs in all regions of the country, but the highest prevalence was in the summer. The most frequency recovered VTEC 0157 isolates were phage types 2, 8 and 21/28 in cattle and 4 and 32 in sheep, the five most frequently isolated phage types associated with illness in people in Great Britain during the same period.
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